Plans to form company to deliver hundreds of affordable homes across Scarborough borough unanimously backed by council

Scarborough Council’s cabinet has today approved plans to form a new company to deliver hundreds of affordable homes across the borough

Councillors made the in principle decision in order to address the shortage of high-quality housing as part of its Better Homes project.

A business case has been prepared to consider the options, including the creation of a company which would be owned equally between the council and another organisation – a ‘joint venture’.

This could be a housing association or another registered provider.

Leader of Scarborough Council, Cllr Steve Siddons, welcomed progress on the affordable homes project for the borough.
Leader of Scarborough Council, Cllr Steve Siddons, welcomed progress on the affordable homes project for the borough.

It would fund the construction of the new homes, sell them on completion and potentially buy suitable land from the open market.

The cabinet has now given the green light to the authority starting the process to find a partner for the joint venture.

Cllr Steve Siddons, the Labour leader of the council, welcomed the progress on the scheme.

He said: “We started on this journey, really before the last election, as a group of councillors who were keen to see improvements in our housing stock as we had seen over the years the lack of decent, affordable housing in the borough, [as] the number of households on the [housing] waiting list hovered around the 2,000 to 2,500 mark.

“That is a shameful position for us to be in and I think that the work that has been done over the last year or so on this project has given us real hope that the situation can change dramatically over the next few years.”

A number of council-owned sites potentially suitable for housing in Filey, Whitby and Scarborough, including Eastfield, have been identified, the majority of them classed as public open space.

More than 700 comments, the vast majority objections, were received during a public consultation on the sites with many of them relating to planning issues.

Each parcel of land will require planning permission on an individual basis before it becomes part of the joint venture.

Cllr Siddons said that there had to be a “balance” between protecting open spaces and providing homes for the borough.

He said: “When I read comments on social media from members of the public I think that there is generally, with all due respect, a lack of understanding in some quarters about how this works.

“There are a number of statutory bodies involved in this who have responsibility for various aspects of it, whether it be roads, dentists, doctors and so on and they all need to play their part and make sure that we have the facilities that we need.

“We should not allow it to be a barrier to stop us building the homes that are desperately needed.

"We need all these things, not just the homes.”

The borough is facing an affordable homes crisis and double the number currently being built need to be constructed between now and 2038 if demand is to be met.

This means 3,300 are needed in a 16-year period.

The average salary of £27,000 in the borough means a first-time buyer will need seven times their earnings to buy their own home.

Cllr Siddons said that suggestions from the authority’s scrutiny committee that the project should not go ahead due to the forthcoming Local Government Reorganisation (LGR), which would see Scarborough Council scrapped and replaced with a larger unitary authority, was not the right approach.

He said: “My view is that whatever the successor authority to Scarborough is they should have the same desires at heart to see the residents of this area, however big that is, to be able to live in decent quality, affordable homes built to a reasonable space standard and to be able to live there for long periods of time, if they so wish to.

“It is a basic human right in my view and I think that this piece of work will go a long way towards delivering that.”

Director Richard Bradley said the joint venture would be “cost neutral” to the council and that it would be able to get back the approximate £800,000 costs of setting up the joint venture.

The cabinet unanimously backed the scheme.

The decision now must be voted upon when the full council meets next month.